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Chapter 26 recap

Knowing that His time had come, Jesus spent His last few hours with His disciples.  The Passover was approaching so they prepared a customary feast.  But this was no ordinary Passover meal; Jesus was about to change history.  At His “last supper,” He taught the disciples a significant lesson by washing their feet.  He even washed Judas’ feet, although He knew Judas would betray Him.  Then Jesus took the unleavened bread and cup of wine from the Passover meal and instituted the New Covenant, the Covenant that Jeremiah and Ezekiel had promised centuries ago.  Aware of His God-ordained destiny, Jesus clarified His relationship to the Father so that His disciples might understand what lay ahead.  He promised them that an advocate, the Spirit, would come and help after His own departure.  After a lengthy prayer to the Father for His glorification, Jesus led this rag-tag group through the night to the Garden of Gethsemane.

What Peter lacked in judgment, he made up for in zeal.  Peter pledged to even die with his Lord rather than abandon Him.  But Jesus knew that He would go through His ordeal alone.  He told Peter that he would disown Him three times before dawn.  Jesus’ anguish for what was to come drove Him to agonizing prayer.  Peter and his companions quickly exchanged fidelity for forty winks while Jesus prayed, searching to see if there was any way to avoid what was awaiting Him.  He answered His own prayer when He acknowledged that He would do God’s will and not His own.   Then Jesus’ betrayer and conspirators arrived to arrest Him.  They escorted Him to Caiaphas’ kangaroo court.  No one could find legitimate charges against Jesus until He affirmed His identity—Messiah, the Son of God.  The Sanhedrin charged Him with blasphemy and sentenced Him to death.  The religious henchmen beat and belittled their legitimate King.  Watching from a safe distance, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.  Stunned and ashamed, he left in bitter humiliation. Judas, in a sudden moment of remorse, returned the blood money and opted for a rope.

Meanwhile, Pilate was stuck between a rock and a hard place.  The Jews wanted Jesus crucified, and he wanted Caesar’s sustained support.  What’s a governor of a no-name, backwater region of Rome to do?  Interrogating Jesus himself, he found no legitimate charge to pin on this man. Yet the pressure was escalating from the crowd as they threatened to turn him in to Caesar as a rebel sympathizer.  Pilate’s thug soldiers clothed, beat and crowned Jesus with contempt before they marched Him to the cross.

Crucifixion was an exceptionally cruel way to die.  The public execution drew hordes of scornful onlookers.  Their jeers challenged Jesus to save Himself.  They failed to grasp that Jesus was there to save them.  One of the two criminals crucified with Jesus, however, got the picture.  His faith secured his place in paradise.  Even the creation itself testified to the enormity of this event.  As sin overcame Jesus, darkness eclipsed the whole land.  For the first time in eternity, Jesus was forsaken by His Father.

“It is finished,” He proclaimed.  At that very moment, the temple curtain was torn, an earthquake split rocks and tombs were opened.  It was finished.  What could compel the Son of God to endure such torture?  Finishing.  Finishing the work that the Father sent Him to do.  The debt of all sinners was put on Jesus who alone could pay it in full.  God is holy, loving and just.  His love compels Him to pursue His people, but His holiness requires justice for sin.  The mob of mockers witnessed a Lower Story drama.  A few faithful disciples witnessed a Lower Story injustice.  But God witnessed the Upper Story culmination of a plan prepared before the foundation of the world.  It was no surprise.  It was justice.  And it was finished.

Abiding in Covenant with Christ

In the film Titanic, passengers and cruise crew members react to their impending doom in various ways.  The orchestra continues to play in the dining room, for example, while others panic.   How would you spend your last twenty-four hours on earth? 

Knowing full well that He would be going to the cross in mere hours, how did Jesus opt to spend His last day?  He spent it enjoying relationships, and loving and serving His disciples to the end.  He spent it shoring up His teachings so that these men would be prepared to carry on the work He began.  He spent it inaugurating the New Covenant and drawing His disciples into a covenant relationship with Himself.

I.       The Covenant Customs

A. Often we miss the full richness of the Scriptures because our 21st century cultural experiences are so far removed from the ancient customs of the Bible.  Therefore, it is beneficial and even necessary to understand these ancient customs in order to fully understand the subtle nuances of events.  Today we’re going to look at the customs of an ancient covenant to better appreciate the import of the New Covenant that Jesus provided.  In addition, a better understanding of the Hebrew wedding will give us fresh insights into the language Jesus used, His imminent return, and the security of every believer.

B. For many of us, our experience with a covenant is limited to a homeowner’s association agreement.  Most of us know that a covenant is like a contract.  But for the ancients, a covenant was a solemn, binding agreement – a pact or pledge – that carried with it dire consequences for breaking.  A covenant was “cut” rather than “made” because it involved passing between pieces of flesh.  We still use the term cut a deal to describe an agreement that we expect to honor.

C. Ancient covenants had common elements.  Jonathan and David’s covenant is a good example and included most of these elements (1 Sam. 18).  The covenant between God and Abraham is another good example (Gen. 15).

  1. Promises or oaths:  The promise or the oath laid out the expectation of each party in the covenant relationship.

  2. Exchange of robes (clothing) and belt:  The clothing represented one’s identity. When two parties enter into a covenant, they assume one another’s identity in the sense that one agrees to care for his covenant partner in the same way that he would care for himself.  The belt of an Ancient Near Easterner functioned differently than a belt does today.  Back then, the belt held the sword and other instruments for protection.  Therefore, to exchange belts symbolized the exchange of protection for one’s covenant partner.

  3. Blood sacrifice:  The blood sacrifice was usually a large animal cut into two mirror slices from head to tail.  The parties dug a shallow trench for the blood to flow and laid the pieces of flesh on either side of the trench.  The two covenant partners would then lift their robes and walk through the blood-filled trench to symbolize the gravity of their commitment.  They essentially declared, “May God do to me (death) what has been done to these animals if I break this covenant.”

  4. Sign or witness:  It was common to build a memorial, an outward reminder, of a covenant.  In the Old Testament, this was often a pillar of stones.

  5. Sharing a meal:  After the covenant was cut, the parties would enjoy a meal together (usually of the sacrificed animal).  It nearly always included bread.  When two or more people shared a meal together, it meant that they shared a trust and an intimacy.  It would be unthinkable to betray someone with whom you had dined.

  6. Name changes:  It was not uncommon to change one’s name to reflect the “oneness” of the covenant relationship.  We saw that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah.

II.       The Covenant Couple

A. A marriage is another covenant with which we are all familiar.  However, it is certainly debatable whether or not we grasp the gravity of the covenant commitment that should accompany the blessed wedding ceremony.  In Ephesians 5:22-33, the apostle Paul compares the relationship of Christ to the Church with the relationship between a husband and his wife.

B. The Hebrew wedding ceremony differed significantly from our own present-day experience.  The Hebrew wedding had three distinct parts or phases.  It was a joyous celebration filled with food, friends and music and dancing.  But more importantly, this custom is rich with spiritual truths that are expressed in the Upper Room when Jesus was with His disciples the night before He died.  As we look at this ceremony, see if you can see elements of covenant.

  1. Stage 1:  The shiddukhin:  This first step in the marriage process refers to the arrangements before the legally binding betrothal ceremony.  The father of the groom was responsible for selecting a bride for his son.  Sometimes he did it himself, but other times he designated a matchmaker—usually a servant—to do the selecting on his behalf.  This was the case with Abraham who sent his servant to fetch a bride for Isaac.  The concept of romantic love that precedes marriages today was not a part of this ancient tradition.  Brides were often selected for political reasons or for good family connections.  Nevertheless, it is important to note that the father chose the bride for his son.  Often times this step included a written contract that delineated both parties’ provisions for the new couple.  The groom promised to support and care for his wife-to-be while the bride stipulated her dowry contents.  It should not be overlooked that the bride gave her consent, even in arranged marriages.  After the terms were agreed to, the bride and groom each participated in a mikveh, a ritual immersion bath to symbolize spiritual cleansing and to prepare for the next stage, the betrothal ceremony.

  2. Stage 2:  The eyrusin (betrothal):  The second step in the marriage process took place shortly after the first.  After the mikveh, the couple expressed their intentions to marry in a public ceremony under a canopy.  The canopy symbolized the future household being planned. While under the canopy, the couple exchanged an item or items of value, i.e. rings, bracelet.  Vows were exchanged and a cup of wine was shared to seal the commitment.  At this point they are engaged or betrothed.  But it is important to note that the Jewish engagement was taken far more seriously than ours today.  It was legally binding, requiring a divorce to break.  Even then, only the groom had the option of a divorce.  The bride did not.  (Mary and Joseph are referred to as “engaged” in one gospel and “married” in another – both are correct.)  After the formal ceremony, the bride and groom each returned to their respective homes for about a year.  During this time, they were expected to prepare for the final stage of their nuptials.  They each had responsibilities.  The groom was to prepare a room for his bride.  He often built an extension onto his father’s house to prepare a place for his new wife and hopefully children.  Likewise, the bride had her tasks to do.  She sewed her wedding garments for her joyous day.  But more importantly, she consecrated herself through contemplation.  She was to keep herself always ready for her groom.  They did not engage in sexual relations during this time.

  3. Stage 3:  The nissuin (marriage):  The third step in the marriage process took place approximately a year later.  This word in Hebrew literally means, “to carry.”  The anticipation of her groom kept the bride anxiously awaiting him to “carry her” back to her new home.  The time of the groom’s arrival was to be a surprise.  The whole wedding party was in fact a surprise.  While the betrothal period was about a year, the exact day and hour were up to the groom’s father.  The bride and her maidens kept their oil lamps burning in the evening just in case the groom would arrive.  When the groom’s father determined it was time, he sent his son and the groomsmen to fetch the bride.  One member of the groom’s party would shout, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” and then sound the shofar, the ram’s horn.  Then the groom would lead his party through the city streets inviting all who wanted to come to the home of the bride.  Then the groomsmen carried the bride back to the father’s house for the final ceremony.  Again under a canopy, the couple shared a cup of wine and said blessings.  The vows are renewed and the marriage is considered consummated.  The couple usually then fully consummated their marriage in the new room addition while the friends began the feasting and celebration. (Without being too graphic, God created this covenant to include the shedding of blood and the tearing of flesh within a woman’s body in this first sexual encounter.)   This was no ordinary party either.  It was commonly a 7-day non-stop bash!  After dancing, celebrating and eating, the couple lived together in their new home in his father’s house, enjoying the full covenant of marriage.

III.       The Covenant Language of Christ

While we are keenly aware of Christ’s initiation of the New Covenant, the wedding language that He used and that is used throughout the New Testament reveals the deep spiritual truths that the Hebrew wedding symbolizes. The wedding ceremony and resulting covenant relationship is an awesome illustration of Christ’s relationship with His disciples.

A. The shiddukhin:
The bride of Christ has been chosen by the Father.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”  (Eph. 1:3-4)  Sometimes the Father uses a matchmaker such as Paul to seek His bride, “I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that.  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.  I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him,” (2 Cor. 11:1-2).  Yet the prospective bride can or cannot give her consent to the relationship with Jesus.  The stipulations of the New Covenant were expressed by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which basically stated God would put His law in hearts; He would be their God and they His people; He would forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.  He would do this by removing the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh and put His own Spirit within (Jer. 31:31-34, Ezek. 36:24-28).  The groom, Christ, promised to pay the price for His bride.  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price,” (1 Cor. 6:19c-20a).  The bride, His Church, has nothing to offer our Groom except a life of obedience.  “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments,” (Jn. 14:15).

B. The eyrusin:
In the Upper Room, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus initiated a covenant with His disciples.  This New Covenant included elements common to the betrothal ceremony of the Hebrew wedding.  He shared a covenant meal with them, including bread and wine.  He blessed the cup and said He would “not drink of it again until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom,” (Matt. 26:27-29).  While some Christians do not hold to the eternal security of the believer, the Hebrew wedding symbolism should shed light on the issue.  The New Covenant assures the Church that she is as good as married to her Bride, although she does not yet live with Him.  The bride, which is the Church, cannot get a divorce and Jesus said that “no one will snatch them from my hands,” (Jn. 10:28).  From the time a believer enters into the covenant, he/she is to prepare for the Groom’s return through diligent preparation of wedding garments, living a holy life set apart for her husband.  “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless,” (Eph. 5:23b-27).  She is to be always ready for His coming.  Meanwhile, the Groom Jesus has His responsibilities.  Like the ancient Hebrew groom, Jesus is busy preparing a place for His bride.  He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,” (Jn. 14:1-3).  Like brides before, the Church waits anxiously for her beloved.

C. The nissuin:
The last two thousand years have been a long betrothal period for the bride.  The Groom Himself said He did not know when He will return.  In speaking about His return He said, “No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Matt. 24:36).  But when the Father sends the Son to get His bride, it will be an event unlike any other in all of history.  “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thess. 4:16-18)  Do you see it?  The Son continues to prepare a place in the Father’s house.  When the Father gives His “go ahead,” then the Bridegroom will return to earth to fetch His beloved bride, the Church.  This event is called “the rapture,” which means “caught up.”  The bride is “carried” away.  While Christians might disagree about the exact sequence of events surrounding the rapture, the promise of being “caught up” to the Bridegroom at some point remains a sure promise.  After all, we’re engaged!  After this event, we can look forward to a blessed wedding feast.  It is called the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” in Rev. 19:7-9.  “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.  It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”  Are you ready?

D.    Covenantal elements:

  1. Promises or oath:  The New Covenant promises are given to the bride.

  2. Exchange of robes and belt:  Believers are to take on Christ’s identity and He took on ours.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, (2 Cor. 5:21).  “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal. 3:27).”  “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, (Rom. 13:14a)”  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, protects His sheep.  “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep,” (Jn. 10:11).

  3. Blood sacrifice:  Christ Himself was the sacrifice.

  4. Sign/witness:  Christians celebrate communion or “The Lord’s Supper” as a sign of our covenant relationship.  Jesus said it was a remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:25).

  5. Sharing a meal:  The Last Supper that Jesus shared with His disciples was a meal that we repeat with the bread and the wine at communion.

  6. Name changes:  The exalted Christ said of the Churches in Revelation, “To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it,” (Rev. 2:17).

IV.             Application and Implications

A. Have you taken your relationship with Christ as seriously as the ancient covenant relationship indicates He calls for?  Stop flirting and commit to the relationship.

B. All who hear the invitation should receive it.

C. I am eternally secure because my Groom is faithful to His promises.

D. I should be preparing for His coming by living a set-apart life, holy and blameless.  Live in a way that is befitting such a Groom.

E. If the Church is the bride, then I am also in a covenant relationship with my fellow church members.  I should honor them as such.

F. What a beautiful picture God has provided for us with the Hebrew wedding.  I can know that Jesus is preparing me a place and He will return.

G. The Father has chosen me as part of the Bride by grace alone.

H. The bride has to consent to the relationship with the groom.  All who are invited should accept the invitation.

I. The only way to the Father’s house is through the Groom, His Son.

Discussion

This lesson on covenants has implications for both our relationship with Christ and, if you are married, your relationship with your spouse.  Here are a few questions to stimulate discussion.

  1. How might your marriage benefit from a better understanding of covenant?
  2. If a Christian marriage is designed to represent to the world the commitment of Christ to the Church, how are we doing?  How could we do better?
  3. What are the implications of the Hebrew wedding covenant picture to your relationship with the Lord?

Chapter 26- Mary of Bethany: Worthy Worship

We will now turn our focus to the pages of God’s Word. You will need your Bibles for this as you look up and read the passage and answer the questions.

Chapter twenty-six of THE STORY, “The Hour of Darkness”, begins with the preparation for the Passover feast which took place the night before Jesus was crucified.  To give Christians everywhere a vivid reminder of His suffering and death, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. He also revealed that one of his friends would betray him.   Only four days before this Jesus was at another meal during which Mary’s act blessed Him so much that he announced she would be remembered every time the Gospel is proclaimed.  As we read the story of Jesus’ death, it would be good to consider how Mary acknowledged Jesus with a beautiful expression of love—worship that was worthy.

I.  One thing.  Luke 10:38—42; John 11:1—46

How can we offer worship that is worthy of One who suffered and died for us on that dark day?  To understand the background we will return to the two passages of scripture from Martha’s story, but this time we will appreciate Mary’s part in them. There was a connection between Jesus and Mary of Bethany, but it is the same connection that we can also have with our Lord, the worship connection.

Our first introduction to Mary in Luke 10 gives us three clues about her heart of worship.  Fill in the blanks to discover them:

“(Martha)…had a sister called Mary, who ______________ at the Lord’s feet, ____________________ to what he said” Luke 10:39.

Jesus said “… only _________  _______________ is needed.  Mary has _________________ what is better and it will not be taken away from her”  Luke 10:42.

1.  What is the attitude of heart when one sits at the feet of another?

2.  What does “listening” mean to you?  How might the heart be involved?

(The Greek word used here is akouo.  It is translated as hear, listen, understand, listen and respond.)

3.  What choice did Mary make?

The story in John 11 of the raising of Lazarus, give us more insights into Mary’s heart of worship.

4.  When Martha ran to meet Jesus as he approached their home, what did Mary do? (v. 20)

5.  What was Mary’s response when she heard that Jesus was asking for her? (v. 32)

6.  What do you think her words imply:  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”?

7.  How did this experience affect Jesus?  (vs. 33-38)

8.  Read John 11:38-44, and put yourself in Mary’s place.  Remember that Mary had taken the time to listen attentively to Jesus’ teaching in the past. Mary had heard Jesus’ and Martha’s conversation at Lazarus’ tomb. Describe what Mary’s faith and feelings might be at this point.

III.  Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany.  Matthew 26:6—13; Mark 14:3—9; John 12:1—11

As Jesus’ time on earth drew to a close, we know that Mary was one of the few who understood, at least in part, what Jesus had been telling them about himself.  John’s account reveals what Jesus had been teaching as that dark hour approached.  Only a few days before the crucifixion, when Mary anointed Jesus’ head and washed his feet, she would have understood the following things about Jesus:

Luke 18:31-34

 

John 6:45-48

 

John 7:17-19

 

John 8:23-24

 

John 8:31-32

 

John 8:51

 

At the Last Supper Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Complete the chart to compare the two foot washings.

The Supper in Bethany

Matthew 26:6; John 12:1—11

The Last Supper

John 13:1—30;  Luke 22:14—38

Who was present? 
What happened immediately before the foot washing?
Who acted as a servant?
Whose feet were washed? 
What items were used to wash the feet? 
What was the reaction of the recipients of the foot washing? 
What was the purpose of the act? 

These two beautiful acts teach us different things.  From Mary we see a heart of worship.  From Jesus we see the why He is worthy of worship.

IV. Worthy Worship

The truth is, we must worship.  “The need for worship is as natural as the need for protection and love, (but) God does not accept pretend worship” (Benson 49,51).  To worship like Mary we need to know what is acceptable to our Lord. As you answer the following questions, allow God to lead you to worthy worship through His Word.

1.  Worthy worship can only happen when the worshipper is able to worship.

We are not worthy to worship. Read Hebrews 9:1-14 and fill in the blanks to note how we are able to worship God. (Note that the Greek word latreuo, translated as “serve” in the NIV, also means worship—as a slave worships or serves a master.)

“How much more, then, will the ___________   _____                     ____, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve (worship) the living God!” Hebrews 9:14.

How did Jesus make it possible for us to worship?

2.  Worthy worship can only happen when the object of worship is worthy.

Meditate on the following passages and consider Whom we worship.

Read 1 Timothy 1:15-17 and note God’s attributes from verse 17.

“Now to the _____________  _________________, immortal, invisible,

the ____________   _____________, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” I Timothy 1:17.

“Worship   ____________!” Revelation 19:10 (See Psalm 46:10-11).

3.  Our worship must be based on Truth, Who guides us through His Spirit and His Word.

What Jesus told the apostles that night in the upper room, about the sacrifice of his body and blood, happened in real time and in a real place. Worship is not only in our hearts and minds. Hear the Truth through these passages.

Jesus said, “I am the ____________, the ___________ and the ______________.  No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6.

“This is the one who came by water and blood, ______________   _______________.

He did not come by water only, but by water and the blood.  And it is the Spirit who testifies because

the _______________ is the ________________” 1 John 5:6.

4.  To worship in a worthy manner we reflect the One we worship.  Mary had understood the lesson Jesus taught when he raised Lazarus—that he had power over death. She knew that Jesus would sacrifice Himself, so she sacrificed herself in the only way she knew how.  Her sacrifice told Jesus that she understood what He would do, and that she would honor Him with her whole life.

Discover how our life of worship reflects Jesus’ life of sacrifice:

John 7:38-39.  “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will

____________   ___________  ______________  __________.  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those

who believed in him were _______________ to _______________.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified”.  (See Acts 2:36-39).

Romans 12:1.  “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to ________________ your

____________ as _________________   _________________, holy and pleasing to God—which is your

________________         _______     ___________________”.

Key Question:  What is your holy and pleasing sacrifice to God?

 

For Additional Reflection:

The subject of worship takes a lifetime to examine. A good next step is to consider what the Word teaches in the following passages.

Deuteronomy 6:13a:  “You ________________ _________________ the Lord.”

Psalm 29:2: “ Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name:  ______________ the LORD in the splendour of his holiness”.

Matthew 4:10:  Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!  For it is written:  ‘________________ the

Lord your God, and ______________ him only’”.

Revelation 14:7b:  ______________ him who made the ________________, the_______________ ,

the _____________ and the ______________  of  _________________”.

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